The Years That Followed reading guide
It is 1966.
Calista is 17, beautiful and headstrong. She meets the handsome, much older Alexandros and in an instant, her whole life changes. Alexandros is exotic, magnetic – and rich. He sweeps Calista off her feet. She leaves her safe, affluent Dublin home for a new life in Cyprus alongside her new husband and his family who treat her with some suspicion.
Meanwhile, Pilar is in Madrid. Desperate to leave the grinding poverty of her life in rural Extremadura, she moves to the capital. There, she meets a man who offers her excitement and opportunity. Petros charms Pilar and she begins to imagine a future for both of them, together, although she knows it’s impossible.
Unknown to both women, tragic events are unfolding which will inextricably link their lives in a way that neither could have imagined. These events will change them and their families forever.
Inspired by Greek myth, THE YEARS THAT FOLLOWED is a compelling tale of two women, thousands of miles apart, whose lives are thrown into turmoil by the power of love – and the desire for revenge.
Praise for Catherine Dunne
Exciting, elegant, urgent, true – Catherine Dunne’s writing is all of these things, and a lot more. She really is one of Ireland’s best novelists.
Catherine Dunne has a great talent for making the minutiae of life fascinating, and for exploring the emotional background of her characters with great finesse.
Catherine Dunne's biography
Catherine Dunne is the author of ten novels including The Things We Know Now, which won the 700th anniversary Giovanni Boccaccio International Prize for Fiction in 2013 and was shortlisted for the Eason Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards.
She has also published one work of non-fiction: a social history of Irish immigrants in London, called An Unconsidered People.
Catherine’s novels have been short listed for, among others, the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award and the Italian Booksellers’ Prize.
Her work has been translated into several languages.
She was recently long-listed for the Laureate for Irish Fiction Award 2015.
Discussion Questions for The Years That Followed
- Calista and Pilar come from very different backgrounds. The former has grown up with all the comforts of affluence; the latter with all the particular challenges of poverty. In what ways might Calista’s wealth have influenced the choices she makes as a young woman? And how has poverty helped to shape Pilar’s view of the world?
- The novel takes the ancient story of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra as its inspiration. Clytemnestra lived in an age where women’s voices were rarely heard in the public sphere. Their individual and collective stories were regarded as unimportant. Her modern counterpart, Calista, imposes a similar kind of silence on herself, regarding the difficulties she has in her relationship with Alexandros, particularly when he turns violent. How is this tradition of female silence dealt with in the novel? Calista begins to find her voice eventually, through her own independent work. How significant is the notion of work and economic independence for both Calista and Pilar?
- Calista hears, at a distance, about the new movement in California for women’s liberation in the 1970’s. In what ways are her life different from the life of a twenty-something young woman in 2016?
- Pilar, on the other hand, knows nothing about the movement for women’s liberation. In the novel, she strikes out for her own freedom in many different ways. How does she achieve her goals, and what makes her life so different from Calista’s?
- Maroulla and Petros are both products of their upper-class, privileged existence. In what ways do their behaviour help to perpetuate the values of their social class?
- Alexandros is a violent man and Calista suffers extreme domestic abuse at his hands. What do you understand about the dynamic of domestic violence, as illustrated by their relationship within the novel? Why does Calista feel that she is somehow to blame? What is it that often traps women in such relationships, making them stay much longer than they should?
- Motherhood is a central theme in the novel: the joy of having children and the grief of losing them. How powerful a motivating force is motherhood in Calista’s search for revenge? And what is your view of the other mothers in the novel – specifically María Luisa and Maroulla?
- The ancient Chinese philosopher, Confucius, said that if one is bent on seeking revenge, then one ‘must dig two graves’. How do you view this in relation to what becomes of Calista by the end of the novel?
- Pilar performs the function of the Greek Chorus in this novel. In what ways does the trajectory of her life shed light on the choices made by Calista? In what ways might her life be seen as a commentary on the fate of Calista?
- Childhood is a formative time, psychologically and emotionally. How would you describe the childhood influences on the characters in the novel, and in what ways are these influences visible in the adults they later become? And what, in your view, will be the fate of Omiros as he steps across the threshold into adulthood?